03 September 2009

Success of UK rail privatisation

Half hearted though it has been, as Network Rail, the private infrastructure owner, has been operating in recent years under government guarantee (and subsidies remain ridiculously high for some franchises), this article in the Daily Telegraph notes two of the successes of the UK's privatised railway operations:

- 60% more passengers than when British Rail ran everything, with higher patronage than at any time under state ownership (since 1948);
- Highest reliability since statistics have been taken.

In other words, people prefer privately run railways and they are taking people to where they want to go more reliably than the state owned one.

By contrast, very well paid RMT (rail union) head Bob Crow decries privatisation, because the rail companies make money, and because poor contractual accountability led to failures causing an accident some years ago. Apparently he hates the train companies making money, yet while they do so, they carry more people than ever before.

Methinks of course if rail passengers had to pay the real cost of services (which on some routes like rural Scottish and Welsh services, the West Coast Main Line and some commuter services), patronage wouldn't be so high, nor would overcrowding, but patronage is also due to the chronic profiteering of the UK government from fuel tax. Fuel tax went up 2p/l on 1 September, with it now being 5x the amount spent on roads in the UK. Imagine any other network utility that would be allowed to charge its customers 500% over its operating costs and investment. However, in the UK it is called the government. Perhaps if expenditure on roads more closely matched revenue collected from them, and rail fares matched cost, it may be a different story.

New Zealand motorists can at least take heart that all motoring tax money is at least spent on transport, even if 14% is spent on public transport, walking, cycling, sea and rail freight, and encouraging you to not drive at all. In the UK it is 80% spent on railways, social welfare, the NHS, schools, prisons, defence and debt servicing.


Anonymous said...

The article is written by the director of ATOC you idiot. Of course he is going to argue that a private railway is good as his members make a fortune from it. Nobody objects to profit but this profit is all through the subsidy of taxpayers - which is 3 times what is was under British Rail. They are running a private monopoly. Don't let facts get in the way of your argument.

Libertyscott said...

I've never argued for continuation of subsidies.

Network Rail is hardly private though, and there are other options for transport other than rail, the problem is the government pillages the road sector for enormous "profits" from fuel tax, in a way that would make any private business owner be envious.